Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas Rail Kill

Great Christmas day walk with Dougal, 1 hour along the Buckingham crossing section of the track with all trains stopped for the holiday and a bright winter sun. The once a year rare opportunity to explore the trackside without the risk of being mown down by a train. Found the time for a quick walk between morning stockings and afternoon Christmas tree presents and while the children distracted by chocolate and lego.

Evidence of dead creatures with every step, we checked, and a dead pheasant every 5 meters or so on average, either 'fresh' and to be avoided or mature to be considered or clean bones to be collected. A selective collection of finds are now laid out on my father-in-laws conservatory table and include many pheasant and rabbit bones, two partridge skulls, many train shattered pheasant skulls, 8 rabbit skulls and a grey squirrel skull. In this 500 meter section of track alone, and we only picked up a small percentage of the bones, so imagine the shear volume replicated across the country's rail system. Briticsh Rail, the seasonal gift that just keeps on giving, Q: What is the true cost to wildlife, if you combined road and rail ?

Sunday, 18 December 2011

A pause and then...

As Dunc mentioned in his last post, it's an odd time of year. Last winter, our first since returning to Norfolk, was notable for a harsh December, which imparted a barren, dead feel to the land. I thought that this was due to the ice and snow, but this last few weeks, though lacking the biting temperatures, I have noticed this same feel; it is as if the world is holding its breath, after the incredible energy of spring has dissipated across summer and autumn, finally running out of steam in late November.

Bare trees aside, I cannot quite ascribe this to particular events; there are still plenty of birds to be seen (though other than the doughty robin they sing not) including exotic migrants, there are non-hibernating mammals and even stray insects, drowsy though they be, with evergreens and flowers like cyclamen still providing bursts of colour. No, it is just a feeling that I have, of stasis, of a caesura, a pause, as though the world was waiting for some unheard clarion call, a far-off bugle on the edge of hearing that will signal the start of next year's fecund roundabout of seasons and until then will wait, not breathing, not moving. It is as the moment when a wave has washed away from the beach and for the merest moment in time it holds itself unmoving, before tipping back on itself to accelerate once more towards the land. But in this pause, we enjoy such sights as the Redwing (Turdus iliacus) that alighted on the hedgerow, feasting on the last of the haws, providing a welcome burst of Christmas colour.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Its too dark to see.

Every morning I cycle to work in the dark, every evening I cycle back from work in the dark...I'm missing the daylight. Reading the wonderful 'Barley Bird' (Richard Mabey), thanks Ads, at the moment and I feel a genuine pining for summer evenings and spring mornings. Finding it hard to see creatures in the dark and difficult to make space between football practice, work, pantomimes, Christmas shopping and other seasonal commitments to get out and look at birds but plan to if I can tomorrow, while I can still see. The grim weather is of course as it should be in December, so I really can't complain, and a great deal of November has been unseasonably mild. The cold is now beginning to bite and the green shoots, hoodwinked by the warm spell are now paying the price for jumping the gun. My neighbour found her pet guinie pig and rabbit 'dismantled' across her doorstep last week and I assume it was the work of a fox, so its clearly not just me that's finding it hard to find wild life at the moment as I look out at my vulnerable chickens in the dim morning light.